Sunday 22 October 2017

Nadal wary of Del Potro

Jamie Jackson

The Rafael Nadal juggernaut hurtled into Wimbledon's second week, giving every indication that if Andy Murray is to triumph here, the Spaniard will be waiting for him in the semi-final. Gilles Muller of Luxembourg was the latest patsy in the world No 1's quest to win consecutive titles on the SW19 lawns.

Before the possible meeting with Murray, Nadal has a potentially juicy fourth-round encounter tomorrow with Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, and the Spaniard admits he would rather not be facing the Argentine. Del Potro is the only man to beat Nadal and Roger Federer in the same Grand Slam, at Flushing Meadows when claiming his sole Major.

"I'm not lucky to play against Del Potro in the round of 16," said Nadal. "But that's what it is, and I have to be playing my best tennis to try to win."

7-6 7-6 6-0, was Nadal's count against Muller, who faded disappointingly in what had been a rain-interrupted contest. As it was, Nadal was given a stretch, the 25-year-old making only three unforced errors yet taken into those twin tie-breaks by Muller's refusal to have his serve broken, before his spirit snapped when losing the second.

Yet the sense was that as soon as he fashioned the opportunity, Nadal would squash his opponent, and he did in the third set, closing it in just 31 minutes after the opening two had taken one hour and 53.

"It was a very difficult match to play, especially the first two sets," said Nadal. "I didn't have rhythm and in the tie-breaks it's like a lottery, but I'm very happy with how I served [and] in the third set I certainly played very well. I had a bit of a problem with my leg but I played today without problems. I have a day and a half to recover for Monday."

While Nadal said that the injury can be managed, Del Potro defeated Gilles Simon 7-6 7-6 7-5 to reach unchartered waters here. Asked how he managed that defeat of Nadal in 2009 at the US Open, Del Potro said: "I don't know, it was two years ago. I don't know if I'm still far away from that level. I'm improving my game every day [and] I'm still learning on grass. And maybe for the second part of the year I can be ready against all players."

Tomorrow he discovers how prepared he is for the best one.

Observer

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